Song & Stage

YAWP Middle School Playwriting Festival Returns on May 12

Young Artists and Writers Project finds big talent in small writers

The Young Artists and Writers Project’s (YAWP) annual Middle School Playwriting Festival returns for its 10th year on Saturday, May 12 at Stony Brook Southampton. The festival features six short plays written and performed by middle school students from Bridgehampton, Pierson, Shelter Island and Ross School who are enrolled in the YAWP Playwriting Residency.

YAWP, helmed by Executive Director Emma Walton Hamilton and Program Director Will Chandler, is dedicated to mentoring middle and high school students in the development of creative expression and critical thinking through writing. The program sends professional writers and teaching artists into classrooms to lead workshops in a wide array of writing disciplines, including Playwriting, Screenwriting, Poetry, Personal Essay and Fiction.

“When we go into schools, we work closely with classroom teachers as we convey the basic elements of dramatic writing,” Chandler says. “Learning dramatic writing is a great way to improve overall writing skills, but what we’re really teaching them is that each student has a ‘voice,’ and we want to hear it.”

2017 YAWP Middle School Playwriting Festival play written and performed by Eastport-South Manor Middle School students
2017 YAWP Middle School Playwriting Festival play written and performed by Eastport-South Manor Middle School students, Photo: Tome Kochie

During the 2018 spring semester, more than 100 students participated in the YAWP Middle School Playwriting Residency, created and sponsored by Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing and Literature. Over the course of two months, students explored the basic elements of dramatic writing and how to tell their life experiences in an interesting way, concluding with one play from each participating class being selected for production in the Festival. Professional directors then staged the selected plays while collaborating with student playwrights, actors and designers

“Dramatic writing and production skills give young people unparalleled lessons in communication and collaboration,” Hamilton explains. “They build confidence, and have a direct impact on young people’s abilities to become engaged and compassionate citizens in later life. This project represents a wonderful synergy between all the creative disciplines and values about which we are passionate.”

The 2018 YAWP Middle School Playwriting Festival takes place on Saturday, May 12 at 7 p.m. at the Avram Theater, in the Fine Arts Building on the campus of Stony Brook Southampton (39 Tuckahoe Road, Southampton). Tickets to the festival are free, and the event is open to the public. For reservations and more information, email

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